2 Die in Shooting Near Courthouse
A man who had just been charged Monday with threatening the life of his former sister-in-law followed her as she walked near the Huntington Park courthouse and shot her in the neck before putting the gun to his head and committing suicide, authorities said.
In a freak turn of events, a stray bullet penetrated the wall of a nearby home, striking and killing a bedridden, handicapped woman, police said.
Ralph Guillermo Gonzalez, 24, was pronounced dead at the scene, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The bedridden woman, Barbara Clark, 59, was taken to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, where she was pronounced dead, police said.
The former sister-in-law, Glenda Gonzalez, 26, was in critical condition after having four bullets removed from her neck at St. Francis, Huntington Park Police Lt. Kenneth Rulon said.
The shootings were the second tragedy for the Gonzalez family in less than two months.
Ralph Gonzalez’s brother, Gustavo, 29, took his daughter Jessica to the Angeles National Forest on Feb. 2, shot her and then killed himself, police said. Gustavo Gonzalez had been fighting with his wife, Glenda, over custody of the 20-month-old child, authorities said.
After the death of his brother, Ralph Gonzalez allegedly made threatening calls to Glenda Gonzalez at her job in Vernon, police said.
Vernon police were notified of threats allegedly made Feb. 23 and arrested Ralph Gonzalez on March 3 on felony charges of making terrorist threats. He was released on $50,000 bail.
On Monday morning, Ralph Gonzalez appeared in Huntington Park Municipal Court, where he was ordered to stand trial on those charges.
Glenda Gonzalez testified Monday that she feared for her life, that she was in hiding and that her former brother-in-law was menacing her, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Paul Nunez.
After the hearing, Glenda Gonzalez and a friend, whose name has not been released, left the courthouse, located in a building that also houses the Police Department and City Hall, and walked down the 6500 block of Miles Avenue.
Ralph Gonzalez and another brother, Gilbert, 23, got into their car and followed the woman, police said. Ralph Gonzalez then jumped out of the car, fired at his former sister-in-law and pointed the gun at himself, Rulon said.
Ralph Gonzalez’s mother, who was following in a separate car, witnessed Monday’s shootings.
Police took Gilbert Gonzalez to the police station for questioning.
The 10:19 a.m. shootings shook residents of Huntington Park, a long-established community of 68,000 residents. Throughout the day, onlookers gathered in clusters around the taped-off crime scene.
Next to City Hall is the Henry T. Gage Middle School. Ralph Gonzalez’s body, covered with a plastic tarp, lay on the ground until 3 p.m. when coroner’s assistants removed it just as students were filing out of school.
“This is a hard-working, close-knit community where things like this affect everybody,” said Mayor Pro Tem Linda Guevara, who stood in front of City Hall watching as police conducted their investigation half a block away. “They are just everyday working people, and it’s sad this has to happen here.”
The municipal courthouse does not have a metal detector. However, investigators believe that Ralph Gonzalez did not have his handgun with him in court, but had it stored in his car, authorities said.
Mayor Jessica Maes said she would speak with police officials and with the Sheriff’s Department, whose bailiffs guard the courtrooms, about possible measures to increase security in the area.